Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dr. Seuss and Flit: Suddenly I Must Reevaltuate My Childhood

Well Dr. Seuss, I've learned a lot of interesting things by viewing your Flit advertisements, but this one from the June 1, 1929 New Yorker has thrown me for a loop.

Errr, thanks Doc. Yikes

5 comments:

Mitzi said...

maybe he didn't write the captions...they don't rhyme you see

Katrina said...

This makes me sad. Even if, as Mitzi suggests, the text wasn't his, the monkey-ish depiction of the people is still pretty wretched.

Alas, this is not atypical of his advertising work:

http://orpheus.ucsd.edu/speccoll/dsads/index.shtml

Muffy St. Bernard said...

In defense of Dr. Seuss, it seems like EVERY cartoonist in the 1920s used that monkey-ish depiction, even when they weren't trying to be funny. It was a sort of "convention" for drawing black people that might have reflected less on the artist's beliefs than it did on the established style.

That said, Seuss seemed to rely on this stereotype more than you'd expect (click on the "Dr. Seuss and Flit" tag at the bottom of this post to see all the cartoons I've collected...about 25% feature the monkey-ish black stereotype).

What bothered me about this cartoon, then, was the additional narrative stereotype of the lazy black man...and, of course, the language.

Gary said...

Yeah...this kind of stereotyping and general presentation still disturbs me - even though I know that it was prevalent when the magazine was originally published.

I just finished "On Secret Service" by John Jakes - a historical novel set in the Civil War. Too many "n"-word references to count. And allusions to monkeys and apes abound (although, to be fair, some of them were directed at Abraham Lincoln).

As with the Dr. Seuss ads for Flit, these racially biased attitudes were products of their times. (So were black congressional representatives and other legislators under Reconstruction.) But it seems to me that no one in the 1920's ever anticipated someone like Barack Obama ascending to the presidency less than 100 years later.

That's why history should not be rewritten, nor should books be cleansed or banned - folks should know how things really were in each generation. Flit ads included!

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Excellent point, Gary!